New Delhi/Patna: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's call for a review of reservation policy sparked opposition across the political spectrum today with BJP distancing itself from its ideological mentor, saying quota was "essential" and Congress and other parties asserting it was a "settled issue."
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
Lalu Prasad's RJD dared the Modi government to scrap the quotas with a tweet, "If you have drunk your mother's milk (mai ka doodh), then have it scrapped, each would know his strength."
As Bhagwat's remarks triggered a row, the RSS clarified that its chief did not speak about the existing quota system but had said everybody should try to ensure that all weaker sections reap its benefits.
BJP said it respected 100 per cent the reservation rights of SCs, STs and other backward castes as it was essential for their social and economic development and empowerment.
"It is BJP's firm committment since Jan Sangh days that reservation is essential for social and economic development and empowerment of SCs, STs, backward and extremely backward castes. BJP is not in favour of any reconsideration of reservation being extended to these groups," senior party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in Delhi.
Prasad, also Union Communications Minister, said a discussion was welcome on what further can be done for the poor and "left over" backward communities who have not been able to reap benefits of development, while insisting that BJP was all for the existing benefits to continue.
"BJP indeed is very clear and very categorial that there is no need to reconsider reservation nor does BJP support it (such demand)," he said.
In an interview to RSS mouthpiece Organiser, Bhagwat had pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends and suggesting setting up of an apolitical committee to examine who needs the facility and for how long.
NDA ally RLSP, a Bihar-based party, said reservation in India is a "settled issue" as mandated in the Constitution.
Bhagwat's call is a manifestation of "anti-poor mindset" espoused by RSS and now by BJP since pre-Independence days, Congress' communication department chief Randeep Surjewala said.
"The party is of the firm opinion that affirmative action in favour of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs must continue in order to deal with the discrimination imposed by centuries of subjugation and oppression."
Fighting a tough electoral battle in Bihar, Lalu, one of the enduring icons of post-Mandal politics, said in another tweet, "The so-called tea seller and recently-turned backward (Narendra) Modi should tell if he will finish reservations at his master (Mohan) Bhagwat's bidding."
"No matter how much RSS and BJP try to create an atmosphere for finishing reservation, dalits and backwards who constitute 80 per cent of the country will give a befitting reply," he said.
JD(U) slammed Bhagwat for seeking a review of reservation policy, saying this amounts to "interference" and is an attempt to "weaken" the SC, ST and other backward communities.
"Janata Dal (United) totally rejects and condemns the proposal of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat regarding appointment of a committee to review the reservation policy of the SC/ST and backwards," party general secretary K C Tyagi said in a statement.